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Qumran-Essene Marital Prohibitions: CD IV:20-V:11 and Its Social Background

In a well known and often cited passage (CD IV: 20-V:11) the author of the Damascus Document accuses his opponents, the RBuilders of the wallS, of several legal offenses. While the text may reflect the sectUs views on some major Halakhic and social issues, its polemic also makes it a valuable source of information about the marriage norms prevailing among Palestinian Jews of the Second Temple era. The present aims to uncover that social reality by analyzing some tannaitic texts from the first chapter of tractate Yabamot which describe a dispute between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai on how the duty of levirate marriage should be fulfilled in the instance of the death of a childless man who has was married both to his brotherUs daughter and, at the same time, to another woman. Both polygamy and marriage with oneUs niece are known to have been in practice amongh the Jews of the Second Temple Period. The tannaitic sources mentioned above suggest that the debate between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai was not a theoretical issue but rather reflected their social reality. In other words, such marriage practices were prevalent among Jews in Palestine at that time. Therefore it is proposed that the first accusation made by the author of the Damascus Document, that of marrying two women, and the last one, that of marryings one’s niece, are closely related and are in fact two aspects of the same phenomenon.

Author(s):  Schremer, Adiel
Format:  Article
Date:  1998
Source:  The Orion Center for the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature